- The latest data from the National Institute for Economic & Social Research suggests that over the three months to April, output expanded by 0.8 per cent. In the Daily Mail Alex Brummer addresses all those propagating the idea that Britain is heading for a triple-dip, “I have a message. It isn’t going to happen. If that were to be annualised… the economy would be expanding at a remarkable 3% plus! Crisis, what crisis?” The same paper’s editorial says “Despite all the doom-mongering by Labour and the BBC, there are signs that the economy is beginning to heal”. The Times is also positive with Ian King saying the underlying picture is steadily improving. But CityAM’s Allister Heath sounds a note of caution. “While it would be pathetic not to rejoice that the overall economy is finally expanding… it remains too soon to be sure… The last thing we need now is complacency.”
- LEX looks at housing market policy – where stimulus has come from “increasingly generous” FirstBuy, NewBuy and now Help to Buy programmes. It says on a rolling 12-month basis, despite the first two schemes, private sector housing starts were still down 8 per cent year on year in the final quarter of 2012, with completions up 3 per cent. “Perhaps the best that could be said was that the private sector showed some pick-up in the latter half of 2012, and looked slightly less dismal than the market overall. Total annual housing starts… [were] woefully short of estimated needs.” But it goes on to say housebuilders should cheer the HTB scheme “from their rooftops”. It requires no financial commitment on the builder’s part, and is accessible by a broad swath of buyers. And it might be working. Yesterday Barratt said HTB had contributed 400 reservations over five weeks, a significant uptick from the earlier incentives. Meanwhile, The Times property supplement runs a feature on Homes With Artists Studios, featuring a ground floor apartment in HollandPark on the market with Marsh & Parsons. And The Times reports that soaring rents tightening the squeeze on tenants is being blamed for claims by landlords seeking to regain possession of their property surging to their highest level in nearly a decade. Average monthly rents in England and Wales rose by more than 4 per cent over the year to £735, and 8.5 per cent of all rent is in arrears, according to LSL Property Services.
- The Guardian says the buy-to-let market “burst into life in the first quarter” as the CML reported gross mortgage lending to landlords had jumped to £4.2bn up from £3.7bn year on year. The Daily Telegraph quotes David Whittaker of Mortgages for Business (as does The Guardian) who said the market was “going great guns” as landlords tried to take advantage of the returns on offer. But The Guardian sounded a note of caution points out that lending to landlords has jumped despite efforts by the government to bolster loans to first-time buyers. In their piece on the CML’s news, CityAM added that e.surv said total house purchase lending was up two per cent in April, with the number of approvals rising from 53,504 to 54,364. The Guardian said e.surv’s data suggested lenders are also loosening the strings on low-deposit mortgages.
Recruitment & Employment
- Editorials in the Financial Times and the Daily Express both look at immigration. The Financial Times says the immigration Bill in the Queen Speech was “a victory for gimmickry over policy” and that the “chaos on the country’s borders and in the visa processing system fly in the face of official claims that Britain is open for business.” While the editorial ends by urging the Tories to “return to their role as pragmatic friends of business, who know that immigration is something to be managed, not reviled,” the Daily Express suggests that “Britain should keep the floodgates firmly shut”. Elsewhere in the paper Frederick Forsyth column is given over to his support for Susi Wolf, the Williams F1 test driver, sponsored by Randstad.